It’s inevitable; every year the new Hockey Hall of Fame class is announced, there is uproar.
The class of 2012 is no different. There were no questions about Joe Sakic. Pavel Bure was just a matter of time. Adam Oates had long been awaiting his call.
But Mats Sundin lead to some head scratching. Sundin, a first ballot Hall of Fame inductee? It just didn’t seem possible.
Don’t get me wrong, Sundin has the statistics to make a case for the Hall, but to actually be an inductee? I wonder if there is a time when we could pinpoint the Hall of Fame turning from the greatest of greats to those who had good careers.
Sundin — outside of his loyal following in Toronto — was not a superstar. He was a star, sure, but not an upper echelon talent akin to a worthy first ballot inductee like Joe Sakic.
Sakic won the Stanley Cup twice as a member of the Avalanche (and a Conn Smythe to go along with the one in 2001). He put up 1,641 points in 1,378 games. He won the Hart, Lester B. Pearson (before it became the Ted Lindsay), and the Lady Byng. Sakic was undeniably one of the best players of his generation.
Pavel Bure, the Russian Rocket, won the Rocket Richard in consecutive years as a member of the Florida Panthers. He was the most feared goal scorer of his time. When pundits throw around the term “game breaker” now, it doesn’t carry the weight it did when you watched a player like Bure. He could turn a short outlet pass into a breakaway and a red light with what seemed like relative ease. He was the best at what he did, bar none.
While some may argue what credentials Adam Oates has to be included in the Hall, remember that if not for some guy named Gretzky, we would be remembering Oates as the greatest playmaker of his era. No one distributed better. Oates ability to read, react, and make plays is the stuff of legends.
Sundin had a tremendous skill set while also being blessed with a massive frame. He was a good power forward. He was not the best of his time — or frankly, even near it. He was a gifted leader and captained the Swedes to a gold medal in the 1998 Olympics in Nagano.
The Hall of Fame committee needs to take a serious look at its induction process and start limiting the class.
Though many say the current bottle neck of greats the Hall is running into will just do to slow down the process for those who are deserved inductees, wouldn’t we prefer that a first ballot Hall of Fame induction is something almost rare?
Walking through the Hall of Fame, I want to see the greats, not the very good.